Help Me with the Holidays!
I struggle with anxiety and panic during the holidays. How do I overcome this annual struggle?
Holidays mean family parties; socializing; obligations. People with social anxiety are already dealing with it the moment October ends and November begins. It bubbles up from our psyche’s back-burner and multiplies as the calendar flips forward. Some suffer, hide, and become an expert at excuses to bow out. Others bravely participate, but medicate with food, drink and varieties of addictions during the holiday months. None of these reactions will improve the situation or heal the condition.
The term “social anxiety” is the new way of saying “shy,” yet I believe it’s different. A shy person may be timid, even sweet, yet still functioning fairly well. Yet the roaring lions of anxiety and panic may debilitate a person as it alters thoughts, actions and behavior. We now have generations of people who, by the nature of innovation, have been removed from face-to-face interaction via our electronic emails, cell phones and Facebook-profiles. As a result, an in-person encounter feels unnaturally intimate since human beings are highly sensory. Body language, tone of voice, even physical stature showcases our rusty interpersonal skills as if we stand naked at the family fireplace praying no one asks us anything about our lives. The use of electronic media has sentenced us to a socially-awkward society; crippled and possibly disabled us, the younger we are and more dependent upon our electronic worlds.
Yet there is an even deeper problem lurking under our layers of nerve-wracking, holiday expectations: Sometimes, in an effort to cope with our nervous condition, we give ourselves permission to be bad. “I only get to enjoy this once a year,” we say, reaching for the fifth cookie and the third glass of spirits. “Heck, it’s Christmas...I can pay off the debt later,” we rationalize, as we purchase another gift nobody actually needs. Self-control is hurled out the window, splats on the ground and gets run over by our free-wheeling attitude that says, “It’s okay to indulge. It’s Thanksgiving! It’s Christmas!” And our vices seem to work well at keeping our anxiety and panic eclipsed. Temporarily, of course.
In the same way we cling to our faith during the ordinary storms of life, is the way we must approach the holidays. We must acknowledge that the holiday seasons are another type of storm beating against our common sense and personal governance. Let us listen closely to our wise-advisor of the Bible, King Solomon: “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked. It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glory to search out one’s own glory. Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:26-28, NASB.)
Solomon was also the richest, most powerful person alive when he wrote that—and he knew a thing or two about social pressures and giving into one’s festive appetites. As a matter of fact, if we study the sad ending of King Solomon many chapters later, his penchant for women, wine and parties led to his unraveling and ultimately his death—in abject contradiction to his wise counsel on nearly every subject.
If he were alive today he would soberly warn us: “Even though our vices steady the nerves…even though we’re given opportunities to indulge…we must stick to our morals, personal integrity, faith and wisdom.” I envision him instructing us to have a plan and strategy for success—a premeditated war-room of “if-then” scenarios to assist us. “If uncle so-and-so asks you about the divorce, thank him for his concern and change the subject.” “If grandpa makes his lethal egg-nog, arrive with a non-alcoholic version and refuse his repeated offers since…you’ve already got some.” “When your obnoxious relative starts to nit-pick, have another event on standby you must shortly attend.”
The most wonderful time of the year is no different from any other day with Jesus Christ. He is there with us, walking beside us and shouldering the weight of our burdens and heavy loads. Approach the holiday months with your hand in His and your heart, firmly rooted in the truth: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Do you have a question or comment for Pastor Adrienne? Send your inquiries to: email@example.com or write to P.O. Box 214, Harrison, OH 45030. For more information, Christian apparel and spiritual resources, please also explore: www.askpastoradrienne.com.